Marriage and Divorce in the United States: A Trend

I’ve been meaning to start up a new series of posts that is mostly data-driven, showcasing some interesting bit of information that I’ve come across. Finding a really interesting chart, and then tracking down the data behind it is as good an excuse as any.

Courtesy of H.P. at Hillbilly Highways, I found this dataset on marriage and divorce in the United States compiled by Robert Allison at the SAS Blog. Robert has some notes on where he got it from, mostly the CDC, plus some other miscellaneous sources.

The feature of the divorce “rate” that fascinates me is that it looks very much like there is an underlying trend over time that is temporarily disturbed by things that happen in the world. Robert annotated his chart with some helpful labels that seem pretty reasonable to me.

In order to illustrate the trend, I excluded a few years that look like excursions above trend, and then I fit a simple y = ax + b style model. I’m not really interested in the functional form per se, or a detailed analysis of the years I chose. There are tools for that, but I mostly want to do a visual analysis. However, I will note that the years I picked visually ended up being 1940 - 1955, and 1968 - 2003, which match up pretty well as periods in American life when unusual things were going on in marriage and divorce. I think the charts speak to that.

US Divorce Rate with points above trend hidden for illustration

US Divorce Rate with points above trend hidden for illustration

The same chart with the hidden values added back in

The same chart with the hidden values added back in

The years I picked really do seem like they represented a big surge of divorces, with an almost equally rapid return to trend. The 1968 bump lasted longer, even though the peak magnitude of the disturbance is almost equal to what happened at the end of World War 2.

Now let us look at the other things Robert charted, marriages per year and the ratio of marriages to divorces.

Marriages per year, with my unusual years for divorces highlighted in green

Marriages per year, with my unusual years for divorces highlighted in green

Marriages don’t display a clear trend, but there is a lot of variability over the twentieth century. The long term mean of the twentieth century is higher than the nineteenth as well, which matches up with some things John J. Reilly said in his review of Gertrude Himmelfarb’s The Demoralization of Society. There was a long term project to ameliorate the plight of the common man by shoring up family life, and that effort peaked in the mid-twentieth century. I don’t have comparative data for England, but this would make for a good follow-up post.

Divorces per year divided by marriages per year, with my unusual years for divorce highlighted in green.

Divorces per year divided by marriages per year, with my unusual years for divorce highlighted in green.

The ratio of divorces to marriages shows the long upward trend that is present in the divorce rates, at least until 1976 or so, when it flattens off to where we find it today. It will be interesting to see if the recent downward trend continues, or we return to the long upward trend of the past 150 years.

The Long View 2007-02-07: Islamic Reformation; Pro-Natalist Irony; Kakutani on D'Souza

A less relaxed blogger might explain in angry detail that reproduction is only the central circle in the Ven diagram of the human model of marriage. The next layer is regulation of the co-existence of men and women, the next layer is the care of the elderly, and the last the transfer of property between generations. However, it almost is not worth making these points: Darwin will judge between the viability of those societies that favor gendered over gender-neutral models of marriage and those that do not.

I’ve always appreciated John J. Reilly’s point that marriage is an anthropological institution as much as a legal one. Natural marriage doesn’t require a ceremony or a license to come into being, which explains why Scandinavians don’t get married as much anymore, but you don’t see much change otherwise. They are in fact married, and act like it in terms of raising children and forming households, they are just skipping the ceremony and the paperwork. It is the behavior that matters, a stable orbit into which human beings can fall in a number of ways.

The state has its own reasons for regulating marriage, mostly related to stability and taxation and population growth. John referred to this as a pre-constitutional function of government, this is something any state has to do, because it is a state. Aristotle talked about this at length.

One of the greatest projects of the twentieth century was to find a way to lower the birthrate. Everyone who was anyone thought about it, and it looks like it actually worked!

Whether this was in fact a good idea is another matter. How this program interacted with the quite unplanned mechanism of the demographic transition is not well-explored, but it at least conceivable that the birth rate would have fallen regardless, given that it started to go down long before the middle of the twentieth century in America and Western Europe.

The Baby Boom post-WWII was a genuine departure from trend, which probably explains the reaction at the time. But the birth rate had been declining for a century, at least. At this point, we do seem to have hit some kind of floor.

Islamic Reformation; Pro-Natalist Irony; Kakutani on D'Souza

The hypothesis of an Islamic Reformation continues to surface, as we see in the current Newsweek piece by Fareed Zakaria:

For those in the West asking when Islam will have its Reformation, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the process appears to have begun. The bad news is it's been marked by calumny, hatred and bloody violence. In this way it mirrors the Reformation itself, which we now remember in a highly sanitized way. During that era, Christians of differing sects massacred each other as they fought to own the true interpretation of their religion. No analogy is exact, but something similar seems to be happening within Islam. Here the divide is between the Sunnis, who make up 85 percent of the Muslim world, and the Shiites, who represent most of the other 15 percent.

The author notes that Al Qaeda as originally conceived was supposed to be indifferent to the Shia-Sunni divide. However, the radical Sunnis where Al Qaeda was able use violence also happened to have traditions of anti-Shiism, thus giving Al Qaeda's enterprise an unintended sectarian spin.

The trouble for Al Qaeda is that as a practical matter, loathing Shiites works in only a few places: principally Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and some parts of the gulf....

These emerging divisions weaken Al Qaeda, but they will help most Muslims only if this story ends as the Reformation did. What is currently a war of sects must become a war of ideas. First, Islam must make space for differing views about what makes a good Muslim. Then it will be able to take the next step and accept the diversity among religions, each true in its own way.

The Reformation model does not really fit. There are some liturgical and ecclesial differences between Sunni and Shia, but the differences are more like those between Protestant denominations than between Rome and Luther. As I have perhaps already said once too often, in many ways Islam is a Reformation. Certainly with regard to the sort of tolerance that the author proposes as a goal, Islam has been there, done that, got the T-shirt. In fact, what we are seeing now is the combustion of that old consensus.

The conflict within Islam today is morbid in a way that the Western Reformation was not. At least as far as I know, there is no struggle of competing lines of doctrinal development, or a competition of views about the nature of reality and how the world should work. Essentially, oil money has provided the energy to put fossils in collision. Fossils can be very tough, but they are fundamentally brittle. Watch.

* * *

Here's a bit of irony waiting to happen. It comes to us from Washington State:

OLYMPIA, Wash. - An initiative filed by proponents of same-sex marriage would require heterosexual couples to have kids within three years or else have their marriage annulled...“For many years, social conservatives have claimed that marriage exists solely for the purpose of procreation ... The time has come for these conservatives to be dosed with their own medicine," said WA-DOMA organizer Gregory Gadow in a printed statement.

A less relaxed blogger might explain in angry detail that reproduction is only the central circle in the Ven diagram of the human model of marriage. The next layer is regulation of the co-existence of men and women, the next layer is the care of the elderly, and the last the transfer of property between generations. However, it almost is not worth making these points: Darwin will judge between the viability of those societies that favor gendered over gender-neutral models of marriage and those that do not.

The interesting thing about this initiative is that we are in the last few years when it will immediately be perceived as a joke. There are below-replacement-level birthrate societies in Europe and East Asia, and even some depopulating states in the United States, that really should be considering pro-natalist schemes at least this radical, if not this stupid. It's a good bet that they soon will.

* * *

I hope soon to be able to publish a thorough response to Dinesh D'Souza's The Enemy at Home. Until then, though, let us amuse ourselves by considering the spluttering outrage that the book has elicited, not least on the part of The New York Times's own Michiko Kakutani:

It’s a nasty stewpot of intellectually untenable premises and irresponsible speculation that frequently reads like a “Saturday Night Live” parody of the crackpot right...

[D'Souza says] that “the left is the primary reason for Islamic anti-Americanism as well as the anti-Americanism of other traditional cultures around the world” because “liberals defend and promote values that are controversial in America and deeply revolting to people in traditional societies, especially in the Muslim world.”

He ignores the host of experts like the former C.I.A. officer Michael Scheuer and the terrorism analyst Peter Bergen who have cited, as Mr. bin Laden’s chief grievances against America, the continued presence of American troops on the Arabian peninsula ...He similarly denounces liberals for promoting ideas like women’s rights around the world: this meddling, he argues, angers Muslims who see such foreign forms of liberation as undermining their religion and traditional family values. But he praises the Bush administration for trying to export democracy to Iraq....

Actually, D'Souza does address Steuer's assessment of the motivations of Al Qaeda, and does not wholly disagree. In fact, D'Souza often sounds rather like Steuer, and I think that is one of the problems with the book. In any case, Kakutani continues:

In the course of this book, Mr. D’Souza rages against the separation of church and state in American public life, and denounces what he calls “Secular Warriors” who are “trying to eradicate every public trace of the religious and moral values that most of the world lives by.” He contends that freedom in America “has come to be defined by its grossest abuses” and complains that in movies and television shows, “the white businessman in the suit is usually the villain,” “prostitutes are always portrayed more favorably and decently than anyone who criticizes them” and “homosexuals are typically presented as good-looking and charming, and unappealing features of the gay lifestyle are either ignored or presented in an amusing light.”

In this shrill, slipshod book, Mr. D’Souza often sounds as if he has a lot in common with those radical Middle Eastern mullahs who are eager to subject daily life to religious strictures and want to curtail individuals’ freedoms and civil liberties.

The book is indeed partisan, but by no means slipshod. As for the assertion that D'Souza is trying to accommodate the mullahs, all I can say is that those Times writers are just as sharp as a tack.

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View 2006-12-04: Chaos, Social Darwinism, Patronage Socialism

John J. Reilly poo-poohs criticizing the high cousin marriage rate in the Middle East, but it really is bad…..

Genetics wasn’t really one of his interests, but I thought it was more widely known that cousin marriage makes your kids dumber and sicker than they would be otherwise.

Chaos, Social Darwinism, Patronage Socialism

Does that Other Spengler have the Middle East in a nutshell?

What formerly were civil wars (or prospective civil wars) in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine have become three fronts in a Sunni-Shi'ite war, in which the local contestants are mere proxies. This is obvious in Lebanon, and becoming so in Palestine ...[The new configuration for the region could be something like] the great German civil war, namely the 30 Years' War of 1618-48. The Catholic and Protestant Germans, with roughly equal strength, battered each other through two generations because France sneakily shifted resources to whichever side seemed likely to fold. I have contended for years that the United States ultimately will adopt the perpetual-warfare doctrine that so well served Cardinal Richelieu and made France the master of Europe for a century ...Iran, I warned on September 13, 2005, is running short of oil and soldiers...Its oil exports could fall to zero within only 10 years, according to new studies reviewed in the December 11 Business Week. Iran's circumstances appear far more pressing than I believed a year ago,

We tried very much the policy Spengler suggests, in the long war between Iraq and Iran. One side eventually won.

* * *

Chaos has other advocates. To loose mere anarchy upon the world, in fact, is one of the options that Paul Starobin explores in his National Journal piece, Beyond Hegemony:

As the science writer James Gleick reminds in "Chaos," his 1987 best-seller, "chaos and instability" are "not the same at all." The essence of a chaotic system is not an absence of balance but an inherent unpredictability. Thus, weather patterns and the stock market have a chaotic quality -- but they are not lacking in self-adjusting orderly principles. So it might be in a footloose world without any hegemon.

In this regard, Thomas L. Friedman -- a New York Times columnist, an inveterate optimist, and the advancer of the idea that, as the title of his best-selling book puts it, "The World Is Flat" -- offered an intriguing idea at a recent forum in Washington sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The world of the last half-century has been tracing an arc, Friedman said. The Cold War was the bipolar world, with the U.S. and the Soviet Union keeping things in check, and this stage, he continued, was followed by the unipolar world of American dominance -- which, in turn, is already starting to give way to a decentralized one in which the key force is not any one state or set of states but the technologically empowered individual.

All this is in aid of the latest recrudescence of Declinism, the thesis advanced in the late 1980s by Paul Kennedy to the effect the US would soon be joined by peer powers: Japan and Europe certainly, and perhaps more. Pretty much none of the forecasts that Kennedy made have been borne out by latter events, though the piece allows Kennedy some self-congratulatory quotes. In fact, in the list of prospective peer powers we are given, India is the only one without imploding demographics or a Potemkin financial system or both. Even with regard to Iraq, we should note that none of the supposed poles of a future multipolar world seem much interested in actually planting themselves in the region. The return of Declinism is really just part of a campaign by transnational institutions, and particularly the UN, to use the political embarrassment of the Bush Administration to reestablish their credibility. However, it is only after taking us through speculation about China World and Plurality World that the author takes us to the World World scenario:

It may be that the E.U. model -- more than the talkathon United Nations one -- could serve as the blueprint of a future World Government. Today the euro, tomorrow the universo -- with an image of Kant on the bill? (If you think the restaurant fare is good in Brussels now, wait until it becomes the capital of the planet.) But if the E.U. precedent holds, it could take not only the end of American hegemony but also some kind of global catastrophe -- akin to World War II but on an even larger scale -- to establish a World Government with the power to enforce its own "world security" policy.

The piece actually makes a reference to the way a world government is formed in the Left Behind books, but tactfully omits reference to the Rapture.

* * *

Here is a review of John Derbyshire's review of Mark Steyn's America Alone. (My own review, in length comparable to Derbyshire's, is here.) Derbyshire tells us:

A literary and stylistic gem like America Alone might be utterly wrong-headed; but one would be much more reluctant to think so than one would in the case of a dull, clumsily-written book on the same subject....

For someone so impressed by the book, Derbyshire seems oddly uninterested in Steyn's central argument about the unsustainability of below-replacement birthrates:

Birthrates are dropping everywhere, even in Muslim countries, even in non-Israeli Palestine. This is just a feature of our postindustrial age, and it’s unlikely there is anything we can do about it, or should want to...The earth’s surface is finite, after all...

Does Derbyshire dismiss the concept of social reform? We get a clue to that later. For now, let's see what he says when he's trying to be helpful:

[T]he reader who has traversed those 200 pages has been having different thoughts from the ones Steyn tries to guide him to. For example: Is that original list of options—submit to, destroy, or reform Islam—really exhaustive? How about we just fence it off...

I put the book down at last, though, wondering if it is pessimistic enough. For all his splendid conservative credentials, Mark Steyn has tendencies towards root-causes liberalism. [Quoting Steyn] "John Derbyshire began promoting the slogan 'Rubble doesn't Cause Trouble.' Cute, and I wish him well with the T-shirt sales. But in arguing for a 'realist' foreign policy of long-range bombing as necessary, he overlooks the very obvious point that rubble causes quite a lot of trouble..." Ah, but Mark, there is rubble, and there is rubble. ...I am, in fact, willing to confess myself a collateral-damage armchair warrior, who would be happy to see us trade in our inventory of smart laser-guided precision munitions for lots and lots and lots of old-style iron bombs

Well, maybe not very helpful. In any case, we eventually discover that his embrace of popular sociobiology probably has disabled his ability to think about social issues:

And there are, of course, as must always be pointed out nowadays, the Great Unmentionables...Nothing is about race, because there is no such thing as race. (Repeat 100 times.) It’s about culture—the aether, the phlogiston, of current social-anthropological speculation, whose actual nature is mysterious, but whose explanatory power is infinite...Good, solid scientific studies are beginning to appear that altogether refute the “culture” paradigm. We are not a uniform species...What of those Muslim Middle-Eastern family trees? The ones labeled “Arab Shia,” “Iranian Shia,” “Mesopotamian Sunni,” “Saudi” (that’s the one with a 55 percent cousin-marriage rate), and so on? Can they, with a little help and encouragement, make harmonious, consensual modern societies out of themselves?

I am perfectly willing to believe that the reaction of early 20th-century cultural anthropologists to Social Darwinism occasioned quite a lot of bogus research. However, Social Darwinism was pretty bogus, too; it's still bogus if you recast it in genetic and neurobiological terminology. Just glance above at Spengler's allusion to the Thirty Years' War, when the Germans blew each other up at least as efficiently as the Sunni and Shia of today. Maybe the German genes have changed. More likely, the same genes have more than one mode of expression.

* * *

If you must recast conservatism in Darwinian terms, then start with this item at Right Reason:

[L]arry Arnhart, recently responded on his blog to [RR's] review of his book, Darwinian Conservatism. [RR's] review, which was published under the title, "Natural Law Without a Lawgiver," just appeared in the Fall 2006 issue of The Review of Politics (68.4, pp. 680-82). You can find a pdf of it on [RR's] website....

I'm a great fan of paleontology, and also of popular genetics, but the problem with Darwinism as a pure method is that it explains imaginary animals as readily as real ones. The same, I am afraid, goes for sociobiological accounts of human societies.

* * *

Some political systems are obviously doomed, of course, not least among them Hugo Chavez's patronage socialism:

The boom [in Venezuela] is evident in an economy that has put financial speculation and conspicuous consumption ahead of domestic manufacturing. For instance, foreign automobile companies Ford and General Motors will sell 300,000 cars in the country this year. Economists describe Venezuela as a “harbor economy” because of its lust for imported goods...

Some Chávez economic policies draw inspiration from formulas used with mixed results by countries in the developing and industrialized worlds the 1960s and 1970s. These include price controls for food and gasoline, strict limits on buying and selling foreign currency and caps on everything from lending rates at banks to hourly fees at parking lots....Despite boasting of some of South America’s most fertile land in an area the size of Texas and Oklahoma combined, Venezuela still imports more than half its food, largely from the United States and Colombia. An overvalued currency, meanwhile, has been disastrous for Venezuelan industry with the number of manufacturing companies falling to about 8,000 today from 17,000 in 1998, according to Mr. Guerra, the former economist at the central bank.

Castro promised his people blood, sweat, and tears: he stayed in power by meeting the low expectations he had created. Chavez promises ice cream and lollipops, which he can deliver, until the next collapse in oil prices.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View 2006-10-26 Pointed Humor

This post written in 2006 illustrates nicely the difference between antifa on the Left and Frog Twitter and 4chan on the Right. Unlike Weimar Germany, America is full of Righty humorists and Black Bloc marchers with bats and bike locks.

Pointed Humor

The propaganda element of the Terror War has notoriously been neglected, so it is all to the good that Ivan Osorio, writing in The American Spectator, draws our attention to the value of ridicule:

"Ridicule is man's most potent weapon," says the fifth rule of Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, Saul Alinsky's classic 1971 activist handbook. That's because, "It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule," as Michael "tank moment" Dukakis so painfully knows.

He further draws our attention to a paper from an analyst at the Institute of World Politics (new to me; it's apparently an independent graduate school in DC) that offers some specifics:

[The paper's author, Michael Waller] cites Team America: World Police, an all-marionette-cast war-on-terror movie comedy by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, as a good example of effective contemporary anti-anti-American ridicule.

Certainly some of the graphics from that film came in very handy after the recent North Korean nuclear test. Nonetheless, I am reminded of a scene from one of Woody Allen's funny movies. It takes place at a literary gathering in Manhattan, when Allen's character becomes annoyed at the futile political chatter:

"Hey look," Allen says, "I just heard that the Neo-Nazis are marching tonight in New Jersey. What do you say we take some baseball bats and pay them a visit?"

His interlocutors reply: "Oh, no no. I think irony would be much more effective."

Weimar Germany was full of Lefty humorists.

* * *

The Clinton Administration occasioned some brilliant political humor. Perhaps it was too brilliant for the Republican Party's own good, since the party's supporters are recycling it long past its sell-by date.

Consider, for instance the The People's Cube. The material is all terribly anachronistic. Take, for instance, the image on this site of Hillary Clinton managing a concentration camp. To be shown an image of an American politician operating a concentration camp these days is to be reminded of Guantanamo. That's unfair, but it's true. Political viral-marketing is supposed to say in an unofficial medium what could not be said in a broadcast political ad. Here we have a viral message that will infect the viewers with ideas the message's makers had not intended.

And then there's David Zucker's latest video, which shows IRS agents dressed like Men in Black collecting new taxes passed by a hypothetical Democratic Congress. Like many Americans, I think my taxes are too high, too. My property taxes are outrageous, but that's because the New Jersey state government is deadlocked and cannot simplify the structures of local government. I suspect that I am also like many Americans, perhaps like most Americans, in thinking that anyone who is really worried about keeping the Bush tax cuts in place is part of the racket that has so visibly corrupted Congress.

* * *

Speaking of humor and New Jersey, here is some of the Darwin Award-winning logic from Lewis v. Harris, in which the New Jersey Supreme Court gave the legislature six months to either redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, or create a parallel institution with precisely the same terms as marriage:

[From the Syllabus] The State does not argue that limiting marriage to the union of a man and a woman is needed to encourage procreation or to create the optimal living environment for children. Other than sustaining the traditional definition of marriage, which is not implicated in this discussion, the State has not articulated any legitimate public need for depriving committed same-sex couples of the host of benefits and privileges that are afforded to married heterosexual couples. There is, on the one hand, no rational basis for giving gays and lesbians full civil rights as individuals while, on the other hand, giving them an incomplete set of rights when they enter into committed same-sex relationships. To the extent that families are strengthened by encouraging monogamous relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual, the Court cannot discern a public need that would justify the legal disabilities that now afflict same-sex domestic partnerships.

Note that the court took care to find an equal-protection claim only under the state constitution, thereby ensuring that the federal courts would not have a chance to second-guess them, and that the court found no fundamental same-sex right-to-marry even under the New Jersey Constitution. The most interesting aspect of the decision, however, is found in the first paragraph:

JUSTICE ALBIN delivered the opinion of the Court. The statutory and decisional laws of this State protect individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation. When those individuals are gays and lesbians who follow the inclination of their sexual orientation and enter into a committed relationship with someone of the same sex, our laws treat them, as couples, differently than heterosexual couples. As committed same-sex partners, they are not permitted to marry or to enjoy the multitude of social and financial benefits and privileges conferred on opposite-sex married couples. In this case, we must decide whether persons of the same

Actually, "our laws" don't treat anyone as "couples." There is a Domestic Partnership Law, which gives individuals in certain situations the right to confer certain benefits on other individuals, but that no more creates a legal person called a "couple" than does a landlord-tenant contract. In reality, marriage rights have always been the same for heterosexuals and homosexuals; the fact that the latter group is much less interested in exercising them is not a denial of equal protection of the law.

Even if you accept the legal reification of "couples," can the court really mean that the state is forbidden to offer special benefits to that class of couples that is capable of producing and raising offspring? Also, though the court does refer to "monogamy" on a few occasions, if "to follow the inclination of their sexual orientation" is enough to create a legally cognizable person, then I am at a loss to see why these entities need have only two members.

Again, it's embarrassing to discuss this issue, because demographics settle the matter. The court notes that the relevant statutes and state constitutional provisions were clearly not written by people who contemplated same-sex marriage, but "times and attitudes have changed." Yes they have, and they will change again. Mark Steyn has prophesied that every viable political party in the West will be pro-natalist by 2015. He will be right about that, even if he is wrong about Eurabia. (In fact, if he is wrong about Eurabia, he will be wrong because of that.) Same-sex marriage is part of a cultural constellation that is not sustainable; Lewis v. Harris is an example of a type of progressivism that can have no future.

What will happen in New Jersey itself? What had been a very Blue state on cultural issues is about to become much redder.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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The Conscientiousness Gap

A 2006 article from the the City Journal on the Marriage Gap between more educated and less educated women got me thinking. Especially these two parts:

According to the strength-in-numbers theory, then, two parents are better than one much the way two hands are better than one: they can accomplish more.

But this theory finally doesn’t explain all that much. If two parents are what make a difference, then why, when a divorced mother remarries, do her children’s outcomes resemble those of children from single-parent homes more than they do those from intact families? Why do they have, on average, lower school grades, more behavior problems, and lower levels of psychological well-being—even when a stepparent improves their economic standard of living?


Others take an alternative approach to the question of why children growing up with their own two married parents do better than children growing up without their fathers. It’s not marriage that makes the difference for kids, they argue; it’s the kind of people who marry. Mothers who marry and stay married already have the psychological endowment that makes them both more effective partners and more competent parents. After all, we’ve already seen that married mothers are more likely to be educated and working than single mothers; it makes sense that whatever abilities allowed them to write their Economics 101 papers or impress a prospective boss or husband also make them successful wives and mothers.

The first quotation was something I already knew. I had not yet thought deeply about it, but it cuts against both an primarily economic argument for stable nuclear families and a naive kind of magical thinking that pairing up two people and calling it a 'marriage' somehow makes the family function better. I'm not knocking the stepfamilies out there, it is just that I've never observed them to be quite the same as traditional families where the parents are alive and are married to each other. It was the second passage that really struck me, however. What if the difference between those who stay married and those who never get married or who are divorced and/or remarried is a stable causative factor that also affects family life?

My new favorite explanation, conscientiousnes, seems to fit well. After all, what is C?

Conscientious personality (high ‘C’) – an ability to take the long view, work hard with self-discipline and persevere in the face of difficulty

This seems pretty clearly related to both getting and staying married, and the ability to raise children well. It is further strengthened by the heritability of C. Conscientious children will tend to behave better and get better grades, all else being equal. This seems a much better explanation than the author's, which is to posit that better educated women believe in the institution of marriage for raising children. If we are really looking at education as the variable, I would wager that more education tends to undermine belief in the value of marriage, which is the kind of thing the GSS is good for looking into.  However, having more education is more and more correlated with high C as time goes on, so we find that more educated women are more and more likely to be married and stay married, regardless of their beliefs on the subject.